Written by: Jennifer Appel
In a time filled with trauma, inequity, and fear, creating a healthy imaginative world focused on emotional regulation seems like a revelatory antidote to the world’s disconnection and anxiety stemming from social distancing. As children navigate forced remote learning and hybrid models, parents and educators are desperately seeking a myriad of ways to infuse joy back into students’ lives.
I’m Who, beautifully lays out a high interest picture book for children of all ages to wrestle with their own uncomfortable feelings as they redefine their everyday coping strategies through the eyes of a furry dog named Ginger. The heartfelt story centers around a seemingly perfect dog who’s haunted with conquering daily negative thoughts and stress. With the help of a wise old friend, vivid imagery, and calm surroundings, children vicariously learn how to take back control of their own world.
Our children today have an overwhelming sense of anxiety. We can teach young readers how to overcome these internal barriers to joy with literacy based social emotional learning.
Growing up with childhood testing anxiety, from an undiagnosed reading disability, I recognize the immense pressure to fit it and pretend like everything’s alright on the outside. Children spend tremendous energy sustaining the illusion of what society tells us is normalcy. This dissonance between thoughts, feelings, and behavior directly interferes with a child’s ability to learn. Psychological research refers to this faking of one’s feelings as emotional labor. Emotional labor often forces people to constantly remain in an inauthentic or forced space through surface acting. Obviously, surface acting is exhausting!
Parents often experience their anxious child’s exhaustion at night, boil over after hours of ‘keeping it together’ at school. It’s critical to help our learners understand that it’s ok to not be ok and that their intense feelings are actually completely manageable.
“The average student today has as much anxiety, as the average psychiatric patient of the 1950’s” (American Psychological Association)
Picture books deliver an awesome conversation starter for kids to discover and develop their best selves by being a catalyst for teachers and parents to carve out their own Award Winning Culture.
As a long-time lover of the power of visual storytelling, I’m thrilled to have created this canine universe to help shape the minds and hearts of our young people. Teaching social emotional learning and character education are not just a good idea but are crucial to helping children thrive in an ever-changing world. From my own experience, I know that books like--I'm Who--reinforce an internal belief that young readers determine their attitude and path forward.
In addition to offering free elementary lesson plans, we’re able to provide virtual read alouds to further support literacy based SEL. It’s no longer acceptable, safe or even efficient to exclusively focus on academic content to the detriment of children’s mental health. Supporting healthy learners in this crazy world is everyone’s job!
Parents and teachers now have a wonderful resource at their fingertips to support youth mental health by instilling self hope that “I’m Who controls my own anxiety.”
This week, think of one child who might benefit from this life impacting learning.
Who knows...maybe...You Too Can Be Who.
About The Author
Jennifer Appel is an educator, coach, speaker, and writer. She’s the Chief Heart Officer for the Teach Better Team, Co-host of the Award Winning Culture podcast, and the Co-Creator of Award Winning Culture. She’s the author of a line of picture books focusing on social emotional learning and character education which includes, “Award Winning Dog and I’m WHO.” Furthermore, Jennifer has been a contributor on two books: Teacher’s Deserve It and an upcoming project yet to be titled.
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.